What do Scotland's Christmas coronavirus restrictions mean for you?

On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon announced Covid-19 restrictions around Christmas will be relaxed for a period of five days, but has struck a cautious tone about risk and has warned people not to take advantage if they don’t need to.

But what do the restrictions mean in practice? Here is our run down of the key points from the Scottish Government’s official guidance published today.

How many people can I see and what is a bubble?

You are allowed to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ with up to three other households, including your extended household if you have already established one.

What do Scotland's Covid-19 restrictions over Christmas mean for you?

This means if you already have an extended household with an elderly parent or grandparent, you can extend your bubble to include three other households.

There is also no legal upper limit on the number of people, but the guidance recommends a maximum of eight, with children under 12 not counting towards the total.

However, the rules state you cannot chop and change who you bubble with during the five day period between December 23 and 27.

So whoever you pick, you’re stuck with, unless you are seeing them outside.

What about if I have vulnerable people in my bubble?

The choice is up to you whether you choose to bubble with them.

The guidance states it is “particularly important that you consider the risks”, especially if your bubble would include young adults or teenagers.

It also warns about travel risks associated with high prevalence areas, and says “you should consider all of these factors before deciding how to spend Christmas”.

Do I need to do anything special before bubbling?

No, but the Scottish Government advise to “limit social contact with others as far as you can” before and after the Christmas relaxation period to minimise the risk of transmission.

What about social distancing?

You should maintain a two-metre distance from everyone in your bubble outside of your household.

Whether this will be possible to do during Christmas dinner is probably unlikely, hence the First Minister’s advice to go for a family walk rather than a traditional Christmas indoors.

Where can we go in our bubble?

You can stay at home, in the home of another household in your bubble, outdoors, or at a church, mosque, synagogue or other place of worship.

If going to a pub, bar or restaurant or other leisure or entertainment venue, you should stay with your own household and not mix with other people even if they are within your bubble.

The Scottish Government also say you should not go to the shops with your bubble. Shop on your own or use delivery services.

What if I am a student/live in a shared flat/have children but am separated from their other parent?

Students going home count as part of their household they have returned to and do not fall foul of the rules impacting those in shared flats.

If you share a flat, the “strong advice” is that the household should not split up. This means you should not go home to three different families if you have two flatmates.

For couples, the same advice applies, and those in shared houses or flats are advised to self-isolate for a week either side of the relaxation period.

Children can move between households where parents live apart, however, even if the parents have formed different bubbles.

What about if I was shielding?

Nothing in the rules is stopping you from forming your own Christmas bubble, but the Scottish Government urges you to be cautious.

It states: “Being part of a bubble would involve greater risks for you as you would be increasing the number of people you have contact with. It is important that you do not feel pressured to celebrate the festive season in an environment that makes you anxious.”

More guidance is expected to be issued for shielders over coming weeks.

What if one of my bubble gets Covid-19 symptoms?

Christmas is cancelled and you all go into self-isolation for 14 days in your own home or the one you are staying in.

This applies to anyone who met the person showing symptoms for the two days before their symptoms started, or for the ten days after they started.

Can I visit family or friends in hospital or in a care home?

There is nothing stopping you forming a bubble and continuing to see those being treated in hospital or for whom a care home is their home.

However, the Scottish Government advise the safest way to do so is to stay within your own household and not form a bubble.

When, and how far, can I travel?

The guidance is clear. You can travel anywhere within the United Kingdom, but only on the dates between December 23 and 27 inclusive.

Those wishing to go home to the Scottish Islands do not get any extra time to travel home, nor do those travelling to see family in more rural areas of Scotland or in England or Wales.

The only exemption to this is if travel disruption, being sick, or self-isolation has meant you cannot arrive home by the end of December 27.

In Scotland, the guidance also states that you should avoid non-essential travel outside of the council area you are in if that area is subject to level three or four restrictions.

If you are in the lower levels, travel to higher levels should be avoided.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.